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Massive Area Of Melting Carbon Underneath The Ground Of Western US Located

First Posted: Feb 15, 2017 04:50 AM EST
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An enormous amount of melting carbon was discovered under the Western U.S. (Image for representation only.)
(Photo : Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

Scientists uncovered a massive area of melting carbon about 350 km beneath the ground of the Western U.S. It covers about 4.8 million square kilometers of melting carbon. This discovery could aid the scientists in understanding how much carbon the Earth contains.

Dr. Sash Hier-Majumder of Royal Holloway said that it would be impossible for them to drill far enough down to physically "see" the Earth's mantle. Therefore, using this massive group of sensors, they have to paint a picture of it using mathematical equations to interpret what is beneath them.

The Earth's upper mantle, which is the planet's interior, is known for having high temperatures of about 500 to 900 degrees Celsius and could reach an intense 4,000 degrees Celsius in the lower mantle closer to the central core. This interior of the planet Earth is where the solid carbonates melt, according to Science Alert.

Dr. Hier-Majumder further explained that under the Western U.S. is a huge underground partially molten reservoir of liquid carbonate. This is a result of one of the tectonic plates of the Pacific Ocean forced underneath the Western USA, undergoing partial melting, in which gases like CO2 and H20 contained in the minerals melted in it.

The scientists then discovered that the amount of CO2 in the Earth's upper mantle could reach about 100 trillion metric tons as compared to nearly 10 billion metric tons estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011. This discovery could eventually lead to volcanic eruptions and contribute to climate change, yet gradually.

The discovery was printed in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. It was led by geologists from Royal Holloway, University of London's Department of Earth Sciences. The team used a network of 583 seismic sensors that gauge the Earth's vibrations and come up with an image of the area's deep subsurface, according to Phys.org.

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